Adele Cosgrove-Bray is a writer, poet, and artist who lives on the Wirral peninsula in England.
Smokin' Dragon was one of Britain's premier independent music zines during the 1990s.
A huge number of emerging bands, both signed and unsigned, competed to be included in its crowded pages. Interviews, demo reviews, tour date listings, pen pal listings, poetry, art and prose all jostled for space in this diverse and wonderfully DIY publishing project.
This series revisits its lively issues.
Smokin' Dragon #8
The eighth issue of Smokin' Dragon zine had Love Like Us, Voodoo Sioux and The Joeys on the from cover, and was published on October 31st, 1993, and featured 31 bands in total.
The Joeys were based in Hull, and had played support gigs for Rich Rags, Xentrics and Swampwalk. In their interview, singer/bass player Fitz talked about the financial challenges facing emerging bands such as van hire, petrol costs, PA hire, and the pay-to-play system operated by many venues.
Fitz had previously played with Dirty Valentine who I'd seen play support for Stevie Jaimz. He used an ESP Thunderbird Custom which he'd bought from a member of Wolfsbane who in turn had bought it from someone in Tesla. Fitz mailed me The Joeys demos and a heap of promotional items, including a wooden chip-shop fork printed with the band's name. All three of The Joeys demo tapes were reviewed.
The issue carried an interview with Paradise Alley which I co-wrote with band member Richie Emborg. They had recently played the Sleaze festival in London as special guests of Rene Berg, ex-Hanoi Rocks, and had headlines at The Alternative Summer Ball in London. The Paradise Alley interview was illustrated with a caricature of the band drawn by Ray Zell, who was well known for his long-running Pandora Peroxide strip cartoon in Kerrang! magazine.
Fresh from support slots with the Dogs D'Amour and Wolfsbane, Love Like Us were based in Bicester. In their interview they happily chatted about being into punk, Kate Bush, Skid Row and the Wildhearts. Their demo, Heartbreak And the Cosa Nostra, had just been released.
Last Great Dreamers
Also in this issue, the Silver Hearts announced a change of band-name to Last Great Dreamers, and Alison Ford contributed a review of their gig at The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth on 8th September 1993.
News about various bands was followed by a review of The Phil Naro Band's demo. Hailing from Canada, Phil Naro had worked with Peter Criss ex-Kiss, Craig Goldie of Dio, and had written songs for Lee Aaron.
Shropshire band Voodoo Sioux were complimented on their band's promo pack, which was described as, "the most professionally presented and intelligently planned that I've seen so far". Drummer Nigel Halford was the brother of Rob Halford of Judas Priest/Fight. Voodoo Sioux had recently played support for the Little Angels at Wolverhampton to an audience of over 2000.
Dressed To Kill
Voodoo Sioux's demo, Peyote Trance, was reviewed, as was a demo from Hybrid whose singer Ashley Brookes also played with Kiss tribute band Dressed To Kill. Demos from Guttersnipe and The Snakes were reviewed. and Taurea announced forthcoming tour dates.
The issue also carried news about the Wizards of Twiddly, whose manager Pete Goddard lived round the corner from me at the time. One time, when he dropped by with his dog it snaffled my cat's dinner. (The daft things we remember, hmm?)
Issue #8 broke the news that Rich Rags had split up. It also carried demo reviews for Dr Bone, Fluid Groove, Ponddwellers, Gigolo, Year Zero, and Jack Meat Beat (from Helinski). Anki Sundelonn contributed articles about Tosse Frans Rockers and Blackshine. Anki was publishing a zine of her own in her native Sweden, named Muddle.
Back in issue #5 I had reviewed a demo by Angelic Suicide. They had since split, but drummer Rich Mulryne contacted me again now he had joined the Cornish band Moondragon/Lordryk, which had attracted a strong cult following. These guys had two band names, one for their psyche-rock material and the other for their folk music, and their demo was given a very positive review.
Yvonne Yates contributed an interview with Shea, who were based in Devon. Poetry, subscribers' letters, and a drawing by Sky Rose closed this issue.
Smokin' Dragon #9
The Marvelous Mimeograph!
Issue #9 of Smokin' Dragon was published on 30th January, 1994 and featured over 50 bands. Moondragon and Jaimz Gang sharing the front cover showed just how diverse this zine could be!
This edition had a draconic change of format. Now having a "portrait" rather than "landscape" layout, while its front cover and two interior pages were photocopied so that photographs could be used most of the pages were now created on an ancient mimeograph printing machine.
One stencil was needed to make each page of the zine. Stencils were made by typing, (using an old-fashioned typewriter), directly onto the stencil, having first removed the typewriter's inky ribbon. This stencil had a top layer of thin waxy paper over a sheet of carbon paper, (which provided an easily-read copy), with a firmer paper layer behind these two to hold them together. As the typewriter keys struck the waxy paper they cut letter-shaped holes through it.
The exterior of the drum was already covered by a tight layer of ink-soaked felt. The waxy layer was separated then wrapped round this. The interior of the drum had to be painted with a thick coating of sticky printing ink manufactured for this purpose. Sheets of ordinary cartridge paper could then be fed between the barrel and a smaller rubber roller, which were cranked round by hand. With a bit of help from gravity and motion, ink was squeezed though the stencil onto the paper.
There was no way to correct mistakes on stencils and so Smokin' Dragon became no stranger to typos or spelling errors. However, this low-cost printing method enabled Smokin' Dragon to expand hugely while keeping overheads low. Printing was a wonderfully messy process! Indeed, the Waterbratz manager, Dusty, nicknamed the zine Smudgy Dragon.
Circle of Hands 10-track album, Seed, was given a good review. It included a cover of the traditional folk song The Raggle Taggle Gypsy which has always been one of my own favourites.
I gave Moondragon/Lordryk hugely complimentary reviews for their 10-track Live at the Kaos" album and for their 9-track Lordryk album, when I described them as "mind-blowingly brilliant". In all truth, I still enjoy these albums to this day.
Anki Sundelonn contributed articles about Scandinavian death metal band Necrophobic, and Swedish band Klasses Blomma.
Liverpool band Damn It Janet were interviewed by me at Krash Studios, and there I also did an interview with Tore Oatby of Norwegian band Conception who, had just released their second album, Parallel Minds. I also did an interview with Fluid Groove, and also with Stevie Jaimz whose puppy was happily chewing his leg while we chatted on the phone his latest band, Jaimz Gang, and how the European tour with Wolfsbane had gone.
Demo reviews covered work by Shanghai Lily, Timeshard, Kadiesha, 69 Eyes, Incubus Succubus, Fluid Groove, Pegasus, Little Boy Sick, The Marys, Guilty, Delta Red, (who had misguidedly changed their band's name to Blah!), Waterbratz, Sweet Justice, Baby Strange, Deadlight, In A Big Way, Jack Meatbeat & The Underground Society, Perimeter, Bone Idol, and Shaketown.
Gisela Collins reviewed Lillian Axe's album, Psychoschizophrenia. Kelly Angel reviewed the 7-track debut album from Paradise Alley, called Psychotic Playground. Other album reviews included Wobble Jiggle Jaggle, The Levellers, and The Wildhearts.
Incubus Succubus/Inkubus Sukkubus
Gig reviews included the Dogs D'Amour at the Marquee on 15th December 1993 by Razz Monroe. Michael Johnson wrote a review of the Incubus Succubus, (note the original spelling of the band's name, which the band later changed), at The Marquee in London on 23rd January 1994, when they were supported by The Witches and Seventh Wave. The Witches' Marquee gig was also reviewed by Kevin Price.
Carol Whitaker wrote a piece about how rock music was perceived, and Kelly Angel contributed an article about the League of Cruel Sports.
Lion Lambach wrote about the Rock Off The Road festival which took place on 10th October 1993 in Wuppertal, Germany. Lambach also contributed a review of The Scorpions gig at Dortmund on 18th October, 1993.
Pagan Media Ltd., who were based in Runcorn, supplied information for articles on Incubus Succubus and Legend, who they were representing at that time.
The issue also carried poetry, subscribers' letters, an article by Kelly Angel called Everywoman, which was a feminist statement, and a list of other independent zines.
Smokin' Dragon #10
Featuring 60 bands and a circus, Smokin' Dragon #10 was published on 30th April, 1994 and now boasted an official international library series number, ISSN 1353-9973.
The front cover showed my photos of an event which took place in Liverpool to showcase local bands Angel Child, Fugitive, Guilty and Skin 'n' Bone. Smokin' Dragon was the event sponsor - which sounded rather grand but actually all it meant was that I designed the poster.
Intended as a promotional event for local rock bands, this event took place in The New Sportsman in Liverpool on 10th April. Angel Child had to borrow instruments in order to play, but the general consensus was that their set was the strongest of the evening.
Peter Johnstone contributed a review of the Hawkwind gig at Rock World, Manchester on 13th April 1993, while Suzi Powley reviewed the Waterbratz gig at The Blue Anchor in Staines, on New Year's Eve. Dee reviewed Marshall Law's gig at Dougals in Stafford, on 23rd December, '93, and also for Plain Jain who played at the Robin Hood in Brierley Hill on January 12th, '94.
Lion Lambach wrote about Swiss band Gotthard, while Gislea Collins wrote about Out To Lunch who performed at the Old fire Station on Oxford, (date unknown), and The Vampire contributed a gig review for Bradford's DamnNation and FM, which took place on February 16th at Mechanics in Burnley.
Liverpool band Demolition Co played at the 147 Snooker Club on home turf on 17th April, and I gave them a positive review and commended their ability to hold everyone's attention despite having to compete with several games machines and three TV screens showing MTV.
I interviewed Moonshine Dolls, who were planning to record their first single, "Vanity Grooves". I also interviewed Walsall-based band Bone Idol, whose responses to my questions inspired me to write they had lived up to their name.
By way of contrast, when "Prince of the Poverty Line" dropped through my letter box, I wrote "Skyclad are a famous band. They could pick up the phone and talk to any music mag in the Western hemisphere. So I was surprised when a promo copy of their latest album fell through my letter box. Somebody, somewhere, must like Smokin' Dragon! Oooow, thanks!"
Southport band Little Boy Sick agreed to be interviewed, and talked about interest from recording companies from Japan and Spain, and said Tyla of the Dogs D'Amour was a big fan of theirs.
Anki Sundelonn contributed a write-up of the Jim Rose Circus's show at Gino in Stockholm on 30th January. Anki also reviewed the 69 Eyes' gig at Tre Backar in Stockholm on 8th March, while Razz Monroe submitted a review of the Crucifix Kiss gig at the Royal Standard in Walthamstow on 8th February.
There were music reviews for Rachel's Breakdown, Jubal Cain, Cleavage, Solvgade, Orange, Recurring Images of Torture (RIOT), Joey Anderson, Play Rough, Ken Tamplin, Sweet Justice, Native Sun, Fear of Silence, Skin 'n' Bone, Ozric Tentacles, The Tea Party, Charlie Don't Surf, The Wizards of Twiddly, The Gonzo Salvage Company, Mutha's Day Out, and The Electric Boys.
There was also band news from Seven Daydream, Who Moved the Ground?, The Bohemians, Peter Criss, Rat Race, City Kidds, The Joeys, Fluid Groove, Scarlet Fever, Stabbing Westward, Axe La Chapelle, Porcupine Tree, Sons Of The Shaking Earth, Aurora, Wild, and Flop (which had recently changed its name from The Unwanted - not exactly an improvement).
As ever, issue # 10 carried some poetry, but this time also an article about the history of anarchism written by Silver Foxx, plus readers letters. There was fiction by Peter Johnstone with his story "Trainsformation", from fiction from Hazel Dixon who contributed "Tales From an Empty House: The Cleaner", plus my story, "Deva".
There was also a page dedicated to promoting other zines. Who now remembers Ptolemaic Terrascope, Bleak Horizons, Pagan Express, Stonehenge Decoded, The Organ, Ratarsed, Aural Response, or The Zine?
- Smokin' Dragon Zine: Revisiting Issues 1 to 7.
A gem of British subculture, Smokin' Dragon was one of the most well-known independent music zines of the 1990's. Interviews with emerging bands, demo reviews, art, poetry and prose were the staple features of this lively and diverse DIY publication.
© 2020 Adele Cosgrove-Bray